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Book Review: Asura by Anand Neelakantan

Title: Asura – Tale of the Vanquished
Author: Anand Neelakantan
Paperback: 504 pages
Publisher: Leadstart Publishing Pvt Ltd (May 14, 2012)
Genre: Mythology
Read: Paperback
Stars: ****/5
Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart
Summary: (Amazon)
The epic tale of victory and defeat… The story of the Ramayana had been told innumerable times. The enthralling story of Rama, the incarnation of God, who slew Ravana, the evil demon of darkness, is known to every Indian. And in the pages of history, as always, it is the version told by the victors, that lives on. The voice of the vanquished remains lost in silence. But what if Ravana and his people had a different story to tell? The story of the Ravanayana had never been told. Asura is the epic tale of the vanquished Asura people, a story that has been cherished by the oppressed outcastes of India for 3000 years. Until now, no Asura has dared to tell the tale. But perhaps the time has come for the dead and the defeated to speak.

My Review:

I was born a Muslim, that meant that my Grandmothers bedtime stories weren’t the traditional stories of Indian Kings and Queens. Hence my first taste of the Ramayana was Ramanand Sagar’s version on TV every Sunday morning. In our house Sunday was a big day. I have always loved stories and the Ramayana was beautiful especially after Mr. Sagar got his say in it. It was a rule at home that the TV was switched on only after bath and breakfast. So Sunday was the one day we woke up early without being constantly told to wake up, we got ready in record time and literally gulped our breakfast down.

I enjoyed the epic and didn’t miss it but even at that young age it left me feeling indignant about how women of all classes were treated. Even Sita the Queen didn’t escape the male dominated chauvinistic society. I had questions, so many questions that no one had answers to. Ravana and Lanka were depicted as evil yet Lanka was the city of gold, prosperous and the people were happy. How then was Ravana a bad King and evil?

As I grew up I learned about the different versions of the Ramayan. Versions where Rama was not the hero, he wasn’t a god but a man – that made sense considering the mistakes he made. Then while visiting a friend in Pune I came across Asura which was Ravana’s side of the story and I picked it up.

Asura was a good read, at some places I did wish it would move faster but I still enjoyed reading it. I finally had answers to some of my questions. The story is told by Ravana and Badra who is a common man playing various roles in Ravana life – he is a part of the army, Ravana’s servant and a lower class commoner.

The Ramayana from Ravana’s view point is refreshing. No man is good or evil, it is the situation that makes him so. This becomes clear through the book. Ravana considers himself a man, he doesn’t want to be god. That means that he has plus points to his character but he has the minuses too. He makes mistakes just like any man.

Neelakntan’s Asura finally answers and fills in the gaps in the Ramayana. This is a book to read to get a different perspective to the grand epic we all grew up with.

Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart

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